Working in Qatar

With a booming petrochemical industry, Qatar attracts a steady stream of expat workers – some estimates say the population has almost tripled over the past few years. The government is committed to diversifying the economy by developing sectors such as financial services, tourism, health and education.

Show more

Doing business

Qatar’s population consists mainly of expats – so you’ll work with people from around the world as well as locals. In a country where businesses either do very well or fail quickly, you’ll have a better chance of succeeding if you’re familiar with Arabic business culture.

Qatar was ranked 83rd out of 190 countries in The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2017. It came first for paying taxes and also scored highly for dealing with construction permits. Areas of weakness were getting credit and protecting minority investors, along with enforcing contracts and starting a business.

While the government offers tax incentives to encourage people to start new businesses, expats need a Qatari partner who often has to hold a 51% share in the company.

Show more

Business culture

Governed by Islamic customs, business practices in Qatar are centred around hospitality and the importance of personal relationships with business partners. Small talk before and during meetings is a key part of building rapport and trust. The work environment is less structured than in the West and moves more slowly – decisions can take time and you have to be patient.

Show more

Business etiquette

Qatari society is hierarchical and you must always greet the most senior person first, using their title. You’ll probably be offered a business card and Arabic coffee – accept both with your right hand.

Communication style

In Arabic culture people don’t like to refuse requests outright. You’ll need to listen carefully and read between the lines as vague statements or a lack of commitment may actually mean ‘no’.

Business hours

You may find that your working day is structured differently to back home, starting earlier with a long break during the hottest part of the day. Some multinational companies still enforce Western business hours and weekends can be shortened to a day and a half.

Language

Business dealings are usually in English. Learning a few basic Arabic phrases will help you cement relationships.

Fast facts

Business language

Arabic is the official language, but English is widely spoken and understood.

Business hours

Usually from 7.30am to 7pm, Sunday to Thursday, with a lunch break between 12pm and 3.30pm.

Dress

You should dress formally and conservatively in the workplace, especially if you’re a woman. Men usually wear a jacket and a tie while Western women tend to choose smart suits or long skirts.

Greeting

A handshake is the standard greeting between men. Some local men will use the traditional Bedouin greeting of rubbing their noses together. Many devout Muslims avoid physical contact with women who aren’t in their family – a smile and a nod is acceptable, or you can place your right hand on your chest.

Gifts

It’s customary to exchange gifts when you first meet Qatari associates. These should be high quality and wrapped – traditional perfume is a good choice. Never give alcohol or anything made of pigskin.

Gender equality

Qatar is among the most progressive Gulf countries when it comes to attitudes towards women in the workplace. Expat businesswomen are particularly respected and valued, but they still dress and behave more conservatively than they would back home.

Expat salaries

Expat salaries are generally high, but lucrative employment packages that include housing and education allowances are increasingly rare.

Qatar has become a way of life and I love this country. Its people who are friendly and welcoming, and it's this that has enriched my life.

Expat Explorer Survey respondent

View more hints and tips for Qatar

Making life easier for expats

  • Starting a new life abroad has its complexities.
  • Your finances shouldn’t be one of them.
  • We believe that choosing to live abroad has the power to enrich your life. It can be a journey that leads to new experiences and opportunities. But it can also be complicated. That’s why we’re here to help manage your finances and make planning for the future simple.

Achieve your ambitions at HSBC

HSBC is one of the world’s leading international banks, with a network covering over 70 countries and territories. Our global reach and values-led high performing culture fosters continuous professional development, flexible working and opportunities for you to grow within an inclusive and diverse environment.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by expatarrivals.com, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in August 2016. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you are aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.